A 21-year-old Florida man, in critical condition after an e-cigarette exploded in his face, was placed in a medically induced coma.
Evan Spahlinger’s sister found him on the floor covered in soot and not breathing after his e-cigarette exploded, FoxNews reports.
Ema Spahlinger said she was lying in bed with her toddler son when she heard an explosion and “started smelling burning, smoke and fire.” She told television news station WINK that when she found her brother he was not breathing. His face and neck were burned and he was gasping, according to WINKNews.com. Spahlinger was first taken to a local hospital and then was flown to a Miami hospital where doctors placed him in a coma to alleviate pain. According to his sister, he sustained both internal and external burns and damage to his lungs. She said the e-cigarette’s mouthpiece may have gone down his throat and exploded again. Firefighters told WINK the explosion was likely caused by the device’s lithium battery.
Lithium-ion batteries—also used in laptops and cell phones—are especially prone to overheating in e-cigarettes because smokers use incompatible chargers, or overcharge the e-cigarettes, Mother Jones magazine explains. Many e-cigarettes are made to plug into a USB port, but if left there too long, the e-cigarette batteries can fry, the magazine says. Thomas Kiklas, who represents the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, told NBC Chicago in 2013, “When you charge them, they are 99.9 percent safe, but occasionally there will be failures.”
A number of e-cigarette explosions have been reported in the last few years. In 2012, a 57-year-old Florida Vietnam veteran lost teeth and part of his tongue when an e-cigarette exploded in his face. When a California woman charging an e-cigarettes in her car noticed the battery was “dripping” and tried to unscrew it, the battery shot fire and metal pieces at her and she suffered second-degree burns. The woman sued the device’s manufacturer, according to Mother Jones.
In other incidents, a Texas man suffered burns and smoke inhalation in 2013 when the e-cigarette he was charging with his MacBook shot across the room, and a Utah child was burned when an e-cigarette being charged in the car exploded and a metal coil landed in the child’s car seat. In England in 2014, an 18-year-old woman serving a customer at a hotel bar was burned when a coworker’s charging e-cigarette exploded. The young woman said her arm was burned and her dress caught on fire. In London, an incompatible e-cigarette charger ignited a fire that took 40 minutes to get under control, the London Evening Standard reported. A firefighter told the newspaper, “As with all rechargeable electrical equipment, it’s vitally important that people use the correct type of charger for their e-cigs to prevent fires which can be serious and could even result in death.”
In 2015, the U.K.’s Local Government Association, which represents fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, called on e-cigarette manufacturers to add warnings to packaging in response to reports of more than 100 fires have been caused by e-cigarettes over the past two years, according to the Independent.